Matt Grzelcyk's toughness sparks Bruins in big blowout win in Game 2

Matt Grzelcyk's toughness sparks Bruins in big blowout win in Game 2

BOSTON – Michael Ferland threw a couple of big hits to show his toughness at the start of Game 2 while blasting Matt Grzelcyk with a high hit in front of the Bruins bench, and then drilling Charlie Coyle in a shift later on in the first period of that game.

But Grzelcyk showed Ferland and the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes what real toughness was when the 5-foot-9, 174-pound defenseman popped back up from the hit and scored a pair of goals in Boston’s 6-2 blowout win in Game 2 at TD Garden. Grzelcyk isn’t a big goal-scorer with six career goals in 129 regular season games, but the 26-year-old Charlestown native was the biggest gunslinger out on the ice in this massive conference final game.

Or as fellow D-man Torey Krug jokingly called him, “the Mayor of Charlestown.”  

“I think we were expecting a very physical game out of [Carolina],” said Grzelcyk. “It’s something that we kind of had that experience going up against Columbus in the second round so we didn’t get fazed by that game. I think we responded really well. We knew how important it was to take advantage of home ice so I’m glad we got the win today.

“You don’t want to allow yourself to kind of sit back and relax and think too much about it but honestly it’s really special right now and it’s fun to ride this one out and go into game three and have another strong effort.”

The first one was the most important goal, however, as it happened later in the period after Grzelcyk had absorbed the massive body check from the punishing Ferland. Marcus Johansson was wheeling through the high slot when he fed Grzelcyk as the trailer, and the puck-moving defenseman somehow found a hole in Petr Mrazek when he fired the wrist shot at the net. The ability of the smallish Grzelcyk to absorb the hit and answer with the goal seemed to give a major boost to the Bruins, and then got the team off and running in the blowout Mother’s Day victory.

Many think toughness is dropping the gloves and fighting or throwing around big hits, but clapping back like Grzelcyk did with his goal is about as tough as tough gets. 

“It was terrific. I think it lifts our bench when you get drilled pretty good. You know, you kind of chip it off and back to work and scores a goal, whatever it was, two shifts later, so it certainly gives us a lift. I’m not surprised,” said Bruce Cassidy. “[Grzelcyk] is a tough kid, and in this playoff season – any playoff season – you’re going to take some hits, take a number, get back out there and play the game.

“[You] keep discipline and at some point, if you get a chance to be physical against them, you take advantage of it. That’s the way it works.”

The second goal was another big one as it arrived in the second period following a pivotal sequence where Brad Marchand goaded Justin Williams into a holding penalty, and then pointed toward the penalty box while mocking the Carolina captain. Grzelcyk helped make the Hurricanes pay by scoring again on a backhanded shot from the slot after a drop pass from Charlie Coyle, and amazingly the Bruins defenseman now has as many goals (three) in 15 playoff games as he did during the entire 2018-19 regular season.

That’s the kind of thing that makes fellow small-ish D-man Torey Krug stand up and take notice of one of his favorite teammates.

“I’ve been one of Grizz’s biggest fans since he came in the league and we joke about it all the time now that we have a couple of guys under 5-foot-10 winning games in the National Hockey League and three defensemen under six foot so we’re causing havoc and doing the job,” said Krug. "It’s a lot of fun to watch him play and when he’s skating there is no one that can skate like him and break out pucks. We take a lot of pride in that so it was fun to watch he scoot around today.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that Grzelcyk has stepped up his scoring a little in the postseason as so many other Bruins have with 19 different goal-scorers on the roster during the playoffs, the most since the Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final back in 1988. But it was less about the two goals he scored on Sunday afternoon’s Game 2, and more about the way he popped back up and showed how tough he was by scoring the game’s first goal after absorbing that first massive hit to open things up in that contest. 

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Bruins' Zdeno Chara spills the tea on Tuukka Rask's 'awful' farting issue

Bruins' Zdeno Chara spills the tea on Tuukka Rask's 'awful' farting issue

Zdeno Chara was probably not the Vegas favorite to give the funniest and most entertaining answer of an Atlantic Division Zoom conference call with NHL reporters, but that’s exactly what happened on Monday afternoon.

Chara, Dylan Larkin, John Tavares and Brady Tkachuk answered questions online for 30-plus minutes and the Bruins captain saved his best material when asked which teammate he’d least like to be quarantined with.

His choice was Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask and the reasons behind it were pungently amazing.

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Apparently, Rask has an issue in the fart department and it’s chronic enough that his longtime Bruins teammate would not want to be anywhere near him for the stinky aftermath of his beloved chicken wings.

“I have to say Tuukka Rask. The way he farts? The smell is awful,” said Chara. “He likes his chicken wings. And after the chicken wings I’ve had to sit behind him on the bus. I’ve got to tell you. I’ve got to control myself sometimes.” 

How this farting issue remained a well-kept secret within the Bruins locker room over the years is nothing short of amazing. 

Rask has been a regular at Buff’s Pub in Newton over the years while living in the suburban city, so none of this should be surprising information when it comes to Boston’s No. 1 goaltender.

On the other end of the spectrum, Chara singled out Charlie Coyle and Kevan Miller as teammates he enjoys spending time with and guys he wouldn’t mind being quarantined with if he had his choice.

On a more serious note, Chara, who mentioned during the call that he drove to Florida a couple of weeks ago with his family to live in their gated community property, mentioned several times that hockey is secondary right now while the entire world is going through the “strange times” of a global coronavirus outbreak, and thanked the medical personnel, first responders and food delivery people who continue to do their duty under very dangerous, trying conditions. 

Bruins' David Pastrnak gets wistful in tweet about missing hockey

Bruins' David Pastrnak gets wistful in tweet about missing hockey

There’s no doubt it’s hurting hockey fans to not have the NHL as a welcome distraction from the global coronavirus pandemic currently ripping through North America.

But there’s also little question it pains those involved in the NHL even more to not have hockey at a time of year when teams are finishing up the regular season, and gearing up for the best time of year in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Bruins hotshot right wing David Pastrnak sent out a tweet over the weekend that was simple and short with its actual words, but truly conveyed exactly the kind of heartbroken emptiness that the 23-year-old is feeling while house-bound amidst what was the best season of his excellent NHL career.

“Haven’t done the thing for a while…” wrote a wistful Pastrnak without any need to elaborate that he was talking about playing hockey and scoring goals.

For young, single NHL players like the happy, go-lucky Pastrnak this period of time has to be particularly difficult with no immediate family to keep their minds off just how much they are missing hockey in their lives.

Pastrnak was approaching both 50 goals and 100 points for the first time in his NHL career (48 goals and 95 points in 70 games) and was destined to be a Hart Trophy finalist when the NHL regular season was suspended nearly three weeks ago. It feels like hoping for more regular season games is more fantasy than reality at this point, but hockey players like Pastrnak are still clinging to the hope that there will still be some kind of hockey playoffs when some sense of normalcy hopefully returns months from now.

The good news is that guys like Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk are doing something good with their downtime as they played on a Fortnite tournament over the weekend to raise money for the COVID-19 Solidarity Relief Fund for the WHO (World Health Organization).

NHL players are still currently in quarantine after a handful of them tested positive for the coronavirus over the last week, most notably in Colorado and Ottawa, but at least the league is beginning to host video conference calls between players and the media to make certain that fans can still keep an eye on what their favorite players are up to these days.